SMC — It seems that soccer is a popular sport at Santa Monica College these days.
The school has resurrected its men’s soccer program after nearly 20 years of not taking the pitch.
The decision to bring back the team came as student demand continued to pour in on questionnaires given to new students each year.
Consistently, it was the one sport that incoming students were most interested in playing that didn’t already have a team, school officials said.
“There has always been tons of interest,” said new head coach Tim Pierce. “There seems to be plenty of male soccer playing students already at the school.”
The fact that President Chui Tsang is an avid soccer fan and player didn’t hurt, either.
It was an easy decision for Tsang to make, once he saw the amount of interest there was in the sport.
“We’ve been looking at it for a while,” Tsang said moments after a team of SMC faculty and staff defeated a team from the Santa-Malibu Unified School District on Wednesday at Santa Monica High School. “Soccer has a strong tradition in this community.”
Once the move became official, Pierce immediately was interested in heading the program as it builds from the ground up.
Pierce, who won a national championship while playing for UCLA in 2002, said that his first order of business was identifying assistant coaches to help him tutor the newest Corsair team.
He has decided to tap the current women’s head coach Aaron Benditson as his primary assistant after years of serving in the same capacity with the ladies since 2004 when Pierce came on at the college as a physical education teacher.
Pierce will continue to help with the women in return for Benditson assisting him.
With the task of assembling his staff pretty much set, Pierce is currently scouring the school’s soccer classes trying to figure out who has the makings of a college player.
To date, he has spotted at least 20 players in his classes that have a shot at making the team. He’s also recruiting local high school players, especially at Samohi, where the boys’ team won a state title in 2008.
In fact, a couple of players from that team are students at SMC. Pierce expects them to come out for the team when he holds tryouts later in the spring.
Once he has his team assembled, Pierce plans to instill in them a sound understanding of the fundamentals of the most popular sport in the world.
“I want our team to be competitive right away,” he said. “I want us to develop a culture that is serious about soccer.”
The team will play in the Western State Conference, with members stretching from Glendora to Santa Barbara.
The first official game is scheduled for August.